Pride // Playlist

Happy Pride Month!!!! I was inspired by Spotify to make a playlist of all of my favorite queer and allied artists (but mostly queer). I also added some commentary for a few of my favorites. Check out the playlist below!

 

Gasoline – Troye Sivan

I remember Troye’s first EP being released not too long after he posted his coming out video on YouTube. Knowing that one of my favorite queer YouTubers was releasing music made me REALLY excited, especially when I heard this song. He was (and still is) a very young kid who has a major platform, so hearing him share a song with male pronouns made me feel like such a proud mom.

Hold Each Other – A Great Big World

Truly the first time I’ve ever heard both male and female pronouns sung by the same person in one song!

Born Naked – RuPaul

The quote “we’re all born naked and the rest is drag” is so revolutionary. This song encompasses Ru’s ability to challenge norms, break barriers, and serve as a prime example of living as your true self even when you’re told it’s wrong. If RuPaul is wrong, why would anyone want to be right?

Strangers – Halsey feat. Lauren Jauregui

MY 2 BISEXUAL QUEENS!!!! Seriously, I’ve been such a big fan of these ladies for a while, and not only is this song an absolute jam, but it’s so important that the bi community has a song from two strong women who can sing about dudes in one song and ladies in another.

Ease My Mind – Hayley Kiyoko

All the female pronouns!!!! Hayley is so unapologetically WLW in all of her songs and I love it.

Come To Mama – Lady Gaga

This song makes me feel like Gaga is my queer mom who will hug me for 20 minutes whenever I’m sad.

Can I (Call You Summer) – Tyler Conroy

I met Tyler when I was a baby gay freshman and he was the president of our school’s GSA! He has always been such an inspiration to me as someone who works incredibly hard to achieve their dreams, and does so while being fearlessly true to himself. Also, it’s the perfect summer jam.

Girls/Girls/Boys – Panic! At the Disco

My true bisexual anthem from the marvelous Brendon Urie (…naked)

The Thrill of First Love – Falsettos

I will never shut up about Falsettos!!! But honestly, this show is such an important snapshot of queer history. It shows how far we’ve gotten, how much further we still have to go, and it’s all told from the perspective of a seemingly normal family who are flawed, complex, and ultimately relatable.

Know Your Name – Mary Lambert

Not only does this song make you want to dance all around, but the music video is basically the fun, queer version of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood”. Instantly obsessed.

I Know A Place – MUNA

I love MUNA’s entire album, but this song stuck with me when I read an article about how it was written in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando last year. Listening to the song in that context gives it an even greater impact of love and amazingness. Plus, this performance had me crying like a baby.

GDMML GRLS – Tyler Glenn

This entire album is a testament to Tyler’s strength as he navigated his journey toward the queer community while being dismissed from another. For me, listening to this song gives me such a clear image of a young kid whose identity is being constantly questioned by those around him, even though he wants to explore the truth that he knows has always lived inside of him.

I wish everyone a Happy Pride! Let’s continue to support each other while we stay strong, keep learning, resist, and be proud ❤ Enjoy these jams!

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“Suddenly I’m…”

I wrote this little ditty for my Feminist Literature class in college (because DUH) and I’ve been wanting to share it so here we go! Contains spoilers.

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The musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, written by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, explores the themes of sexuality, gender, and the body in a way that is very rarely seen in media. The story is told in monologue form, focusing entirely on the life of German rock star Hedwig and her band “The Angry Inch”. Hedwig offers a perfect example of a queer character that challenges the definitions of supposedly understood concepts, such as sex and gender. The way Mitchell presents the complex character of Hedwig invites discussions and conversations about how we perceive what society deems normal about identity politics. Hedwig and the Angry Inch offers a brand new dynamic of exploring sex, gender, and the body by encouraging ideas of multiplicity and how we construct identity.

Multiplicity and the Rejection of the Norm

After escaping communist East Berlin by getting a sex change operation and marrying a United States lieutenant, Hedwig is forced to navigate her life in a new body, a new country, and with a completely new identity. Hedwig uses she/her pronouns throughout the play, but also describes herself as a “girlyboy from communist East Berlin” so there is a question of how exactly she identifies in terms of gender. Her sex change was motivated by her desire to leave Berlin, so she did not actively set out to transition based on her identity. However, with wigs, makeup, and clothing, she presents extremely female and takes ownership of her femininity through her overall appearance. With Hedwig comes multiplicity; while some may label her as trans or genderfluid, it seems that Hedwig doesn’t feel the need to associate herself with a label at all.

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There is an excerpt from the song “Tear Me Down” that discusses this tension that exists within Hedwig. Her husband sings the words that compare her to the Berlin wall, claiming that Hedwig lives “in the divide between East and West, slavery and freedom, man and woman…” This struggle to classify Hedwig’s identity is discussed multiple times throughout the play. There are many parallels found between physical borders – like her inability to leave Berlin – and borders of sex and gender that exist in terms of her identity. Rather than conforming to one particular label, Hedwig explores herself through the creation of her own unique identity. She does not decide between being a man or a woman, and she does not explicitly identify with either her German or American identity. Instead, she rejects the idea that she needs to fit into these predetermined boxes, and decides she would rather live as someone completely new.

In a song about Hedwig, her former boyfriend Tommy sings “you were so much more than any God could ever plan, more than a woman or a man”, exploring the ways in which she introduced him to a new way of thinking about identity. Tommy is described as a “Jesus freak”, and he had been taught since he was little that the most valued qualities of identity could be found in the Bible. But after meeting Hedwig, this concrete, binary-driven ideology that Tommy learned from Catholicism is suddenly destroyed. He realizes, unlike his parents, that he can choose how to construct his own identity without any guidance from the Bible. Hedwig helps Tommy to create his stage persona of Tommy Gnosis, who unlike Tommy Speck, does not care about authority or rules, and rather focuses on the intrigue of uncertainty. But with this resistance against the norm comes tension, which can be seen through Hedwig’s relationship with Tommy.

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At Tommy’s hesitance to take their relationship to the next level, Hedwig asks him “What are you afraid of?” Without a clear answer, it is obvious that Tommy is not ready to understand the ways in which Hedwig challenges the norms of sex and gender. Even with his own experience of rebellion against his parents, Hedwig’s rejection of what people expect from her instills a sense of fear. There is an essential fear of the unknown that people must confront when they are introduced to Hedwig. Therefore, Hedwig is forced to come to terms with continuing to face this struggle unless she fully embraces the multiplicity of her identity. She must further construct what it means to be Hedwig, her individual self, rather than what it means to be a man or a woman or any other label that may be assumed about her. By creating an identity surrounded by ambiguity and queerness, Hedwig works to make this new space and ultimately find acceptance within herself.

Not only does Hedwig refuse to follow any of society’s expectations about what it means to be a woman, or genderqueer, or any other label, but she also does so loudly. With her exaggerated use of feminine and glamorous aesthetics, as well as the conservation of a strong and dominating attitude, Hedwig lives honestly and without gender boundaries. She forces herself into the spotlight. She wants people to know who she is, ambiguity and all.

Queer Performance

Drag culture is another tool the show uses to discuss identity. Once Hedwig starts her new life in the United States, she must make the abrupt transition from Hansel Schmidt to Hedwig Robinson, and she turns her persona into a performance. She uses makeup and a variety of wigs to create different versions of herself, until she settles on the “punk rock star of stage and screen”. While this is perceived to be a very feminine way of presenting, the fact that Hedwig draws from over exaggerated drag and glam-punk styles of expression suggests that there is still no clear assumption one can make about her identity.

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Once Hedwig meets her husband Yitzhak – who also has a passion for drag culture – her constructed identity becomes threatened. Because of their similar styles, Hedwig feels like the space she has created for her own personal identity is being replicated, therefore it may no longer be unique. Yitzhak’s stage identity, Crystal, is something he considers to be an important part of his identity. There is a part of him that connects closely to it, as shown through his jealousy of Hedwig’s role of lead vocalist in the Angry Inch. But while Yitzhak longs to explore this part of his identity, Hedwig prohibits it in order to maintain her own spotlight and validation. If Yitzhak were to play around with gender in the ways Hedwig does, would his uniqueness undermine Hedwig’s, therefore making it less special? Rather than risk this, Hedwig forbids him from performing in drag. She forces him to give up a part of his identity in order to maintain her own unique ambiguity.

The dynamics of Hedwig’s marriage also demonstrate how she and her husband do not prescribe to the assumed gender norms created by society. In traditional straight marriages, the man is the dominant one, often times dismissing the woman in the relationship in order to maintain power. But it quickly becomes clear that Hedwig and Yitzhak complicate these roles. For example, Hedwig controls Yitzhak’s every move and every decision. She dictates the role he plays in the band, and he very often is shown taking care of Hedwig – brushing her wigs, getting her drinks, and constantly waiting on her hand and foot. He has no power in the relationship. Hedwig created these skewed power dynamics between the two of them by erasing the expectations that the wife had to be submissive and passive; though Yitzhak would label her as his wife, this term could be used loosely, as it is identifying Hedwig ultimately as female.

Sexuality and the Body

Throughout the play, there are a lot of references to Hedwig’s biology rather than how exactly she identifies in terms of gender. There is an entire song called “Angry Inch” that discusses the messy results of her “sex change operation” (Side note: this term is no longer acceptable and has been replaced with the more accurate “gender affirming surgery”). Along with her ambiguous gender identity, her perceived sex is also impossible to define, as she uses the words “where my penis used to be, where my vagina never was” to describe what is now an “angry inch”.

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The theme of the body in Hedwig ultimately works to deconstruct the binary. For example, along with her gender presentation, Hedwig refuses to prescribe to any certain expectation about her sexuality. On her journey to constructing her unique identity, Hedwig struggles to navigate how her own life story will compare to the story of Plato’s Symposium. This famous work, which is heavily discussed in the play, explores the story of the children of the sun, the Earth, and the moon – humans who were once combined respectively as two men, two women, and a man and a woman. When Hedwig’s mother tells her this story, she seeks its truth in her own life. She spends the majority of the play longing for her other half. While contemplating whether or not two people are actually meant to become one again – which Plato’s work suggests is the ultimate paradise – she wonders “is [my other half] a he or a she?” Along with these thoughts Hedwig also considers if sex is the physical way people themselves back together after being separated by the Gods.

But by the end of the show, Hedwig realizes that this duplicity can come from within. Once again, Hedwig must come to terms with the fact that rather than picking a side or finding the person who physically completes her and signifies the binary of her identity, she can continue to allow the multiplicity that exists within her to grow and develop. In doing so, she allows her body and her identity to live in a state of ambiguity – she is neither man nor woman, and she is not one half of a person looking for another to complete her. She is whole.

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There are many tools Mitchell uses throughout the play to offer new ideas about sex, gender, and the body, such as deconstructed notions of the body, drag culture, multiplicity, and rejections of the binary. Hedwig’s character is essentially queer in the ways she refuses to prescribe to society’s expectations of what it means to be a woman, or any gender at all. Hedwig struggles with the conflicts that are born from her preferred ambiguity, but she ultimately comes to terms with the fact that it is her difference that defines her honest identity. Hedwig learns how to construct her own unique identity both through her appearance and her behaviors, all which are applicable to the notion of identity as a construction and performance. Hedwig explores the ways in which sex, gender, and the body can be used as tools for people to construct their own brand of identity and express themselves through genuine authenticity, despite what society may deem “normal”.

Bo Burnham, Waitress, #GirlLove, and The Fosters

Hi friends!!!! It’s definitely been a while! Right now I’m trying to get back into the routine of writing on a somewhat regular basis, so I figured I’d do something simple. So many thoughts are floating around in my head about fun stuff I’ve been wanting to share, so I decided to put it all in one post. These are some of the the things I’ve been really digging lately, dudes!

Make Happy—Bo Burnham

I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched Bo Burnham’s Netflix special what. So obviously, when I heard his new show (filmed right near my old stomping grounds in Westchester!) was being released on Netflix, I knew to expect something great. And what’s funny is while I really enjoyed the show, Bo Burnham is not the type of person I could imagine giving a shit about a review from a 22-year-old with a blog. But at the same time, his show is so powerful in a really interesting way that I can’t help but comment on it, so I’ll ask for a moment of indulgence. Whenever people discuss the trouble in comedy with “being PC” or worrying about offending people, I always point their attention to Bo. Along with other favorite comedians of mine like Grace Helbig and Aziz Ansari, Bo is a prime example of how you don’t have to be offensive to be funny. It’s a crazy concept that seems impossible to people these days, but watching shows like Make Happy restore my faith in the world of comedy. Mind you, there are a lot of dumb jokes about farts and masturbating, but aren’t we all secretly 12-year-old boys when it comes to what makes us laugh? Maybe that’s just me…oh, well. Bo’s style of comedy combines a series of bits with a lot of song mixed in, which I think really adds to his ability to capture an audience. Music and comedy—is there a better combination? He discusses the familiar and targeted lyrics that are found in country songs, the generic shift that is happening in hip-hop, and the fact that you should not be relying on upbeat, pop anthems to make your troubles go away. So many obvious themes that we all know to be true put into silly songs and paired with amazing delivery. My personal favorite is (obviously) “Straight White Male”. And that one lyric about your dick not being a gift…brilliant shit. The number one theme I take away from Bo’s show is a strong commentary on performance. This commentary does not focus on the fact that Bo is on stage entertaining an audience, but rather the way this gets translated into our everyday lives. Throughout the show, Bo takes time to remind the audience to think about their actions in a number of different ways. By having a thoughtful conversation with the audience about where we choose to focus our attention, Bo gets us to think about performance in a way that is maybe a little meta, but absolutely intriguing and worth an hour of your time.

Waitress

With an amazing cast of talented actors, a moving and authentic storyline, and music by Sara Bareilles (I still can’t spell her name without the help from Google—thanks for lookin’ out, pal), Waitress has been getting a lot of praise lately, and it is definitely all warranted. After seeing the show about a month ago, I still haven’t taken the cast album off repeat. I have always been a big fan of Sara Bareilles’s songwriting, and the translation of her music to the stage with this particular story makes for a great theater experience. The basis of the show surrounds a small town diner with employees who don’t exactly love the way their life is going, especially the main character, Jenna, who is expecting a baby with her manipulating (to put it kindly) husband. Though this is a storyline we’re all familiar with, the cast does a fantastic job bringing a new life to the plot, characters, and message. While I was fairly sure of how the show was going to end, that didn’t leave me uninterested. Far from it, actually. There are so many intricate details attributed to every character that you feel yourself transported to Joe’s Pie Diner with them, rooting for Jenna and her friends so they can live their dreams, no matter the circumstances. I’ve never been great at reviewing theater, mostly because of my firm belief that everyone experiences the story in their own personal way. Just from the soundtrack alone, I am so moved by this work. From Christopher Fitzgerald’s show-stealing “Never Getting Rid of Me” to Jessie Mueller’s emotional solo “She Used To Be Mine”, each of these actors deliver such fresh and captivating performances that I am left wanting more. I am looking forward to seeing this show again, as I am confident it will be running for some time. If anyone is looking for a buddy to accompany them to this masterpiece, just holler. Ya girl is always down to spend some money on quality theater 😉

#GirlLove—Lilly Singh

Amidst all of the drama going on in the media lately, Lilly Singh is an absolute breath of fresh air. She has been one of my favorite content creators for a while—her videos are incredibly genuine and you can always tell the hard work she puts into her passions. Recently, Lilly started encouraging the use of the hashtag #GirlLove on Twitter to emphasize the importance of women supporting each other in a society that so often forces us to be in competition with each other. “Girl-on-girl hate is such a huge issue,” Lilly writes in the description of her first #GirlLove video. “It’s about time we got rid of this lame trend and came together to build women up.” Since this first video was posted, Lilly has worked to raise money for the Malala Fund in honor of educating women around the world, participated with other YouTubers on a #GirlLove panel at Vidcon 2016, and just recently announced a new web series that is dedicated to delivering this powerful message. I’m sure it’s a surprise to nobody that I’m a big fan of this campaign, but it’s not only the feminist in me that loves Lilly’s mission. I always get inspired by the people with platforms like Lilly’s (almost 10 million subscribers…YEAH, SHE’S THAT GOOD) using their voices in order to make a change. Sometimes YouTube gets a bad reputation for people making silly videos and making money off of it—which definitely happens. And while these videos are definitely entertaining, they also have the power to create a platform for people to contribute to the problems we all face everyday. Lilly’s dedication to spreading the message of #GirlLove is so important, especially in a time when we all seem to be so caught up in the drama of people’s lives who we don’t even know. So with this post, I’m shooting some extra #GirlLove to Lilly Singh. You’re killing the game and I can’t wait to see the big moves you make in the future.

The Fosters

I’m not sure there are many people left on this planet who haven’t heard my pitch for jumping on board with Freeform’s incomparable The Fosters, but for the four of you, here’s my rant. Some people may be turned off by the network previously known as ABC Family, afraid of dealing with uninteresting, teen-driven plots for audiences who are fans of shows like Pretty Little Liars, but I beg anyone who appreciates quality storytelling to put those fears aside for the sake of The Fosters. I truly believe this show has some of the best writers on TV right now. The stories they are telling are interesting and complex, but something I really appreciate from these writers is the way they can address topical issues in such a beautiful way without messing with the natural plot. Aside from the fact the very structure of the show is built off diversity and offering multiple perspectives, the audience has the opportunity to take these perspectives to the next level in a very easy way. We see stories about survivors of sexual abuse, long-lasting race issues among families, violence and bullying in schools; while these are topics often portrayed on TV, I feel that we are so used to seeing the same outcome—some kid gets in trouble, or maybe the consequences are prolonged for drama, but eventually there is a happy ending. But The Fosters does an amazing job of delivering some harsh realities. Sometimes there isn’t proper closure and sometimes justice isn’t always achieved by those who truly deserve it. But wrapped up in these harsh realities is a family structure that works toward accepting that what really makes these difficult moments in life worth getting through are the people around you. Listen, I’m not the most dedicated TV watcher. When shows start drifting away from what initially drew me to them in the first place, I tend to lose interest and eventually stop watching. And the more I watched The Fosters, the more I worried this was going to happen. There was so much quality content that I kept thinking “When is this going to start sucking? Can this show really continue being this good?” Thankfully, it did. Of course there are certain plot lines that I’m not crazy about and there are those occasional episodes that don’t excite me as much as others, but overall, it’s definitely a show that continue to love season after season. Every episode, I can’t help but notice how wonderfully certain topics were executed, or how long I am left thinking about conversations that were being portrayed. The Fosters gives quality attention to real life issues, offers real life solutions, and makes us really consider our positions in what we see reflected in our own lives.

Best of Wives and Best of Women

It’s finally happening, everyone. It was only a matter of time, but I’m finally writing about Hamilton.

(Side note: This post was inspired by the Charlie Rose interviews with the cast, so check those out!)

I was struggling to decide whether or not I could actually write this because I still haven’t seen the show. But I have listened to the soundtrack approximately two hundred times, followed all of the actors on Twitter and Instagram, and watched every #Ham4Ham performance and all the other YouTube videos of the cast that exist (minus bootlegs, of course). Plus, this is my blog and I make the rules. So here ya go.

I’m sure you’ve all heard more than you’ve asked for about the musical Hamilton. And let’s be real, it was probably from me. So you must be wondering what else I could possibly say about the hip-hop musical about the founding father Alexander Hamilton. And here’s the plot twist for you: I don’t want to talk about Alexander Hamilton. I want to talk about Eliza.

Earlier this year, my roommate had the opportunity to see Hamilton and I couldn’t wait to hear all of her thoughts. This had been a show I had been dying to see since last summer when it was Off-Broadway at The Public, and I didn’t know many people who had actually gotten the chance to see it, so I was eager to hear first-hand opinions from someone I knew was also a big fan of musical theater. When she came home the night of the show and I asked her if it lived up to the hype, her answer was a fierce yes. But what surprised me most was that she continued by saying, “It had one of the most feminist endings I’ve ever seen.”

This obviously caught me off guard; how could that be true about a musical centered around the life of some old dude in the 1800s? I wasn’t denying that there were possible feminist elements in the show, but the most feminist ending ever? It didn’t add up. But then came my time to be fully immersed in everything Hamilton. I familiarized myself with the soundtrack, the history, the inspirations, and all of the work that was and is put into the show. And after a few (hundred) days spent obsessing over this work, I was finally able to understand her comment. Let me tell you- Hamilton is a goddamn feminist masterpiece.

Of course the show is mostly about the life of Alexander Hamilton- how he came to America as an orphan and established the first national bank and wrote a crazy amount of essays that would be responsible for most of his legacy as a founding father. But the show also gives insight to Hamilton’s personal life- his admiration for Washington, the death of his son Phillip, and the relationship with his wife, Eliza.

*enter doves*

Hamilton was not the best husband, and that is putting it nicely. Often times he was more concerned with leaving his legacy as an American and willing to die for his new country than he was with his family. He spent more time and energy on his plans for Congress than quality time with his wife and kids. At first Eliza puts up with this; “I know who I married” she says. Not to mention the not so secret feelings he had for Eliza’s sister Angelica and the affair with Maria Reynolds, just to name a few of his disloyal tendencies. Eliza is lied to and betrayed, angry and confused, and she refuses to be controlled by her husband’s unfaithful behaviors. And yet, despite all of this, Eliza decides that his memory must be honored after he dies. Eliza is the one responsible for Hamilton’s legacy.

Eliza is the only character in the show who doesn’t rap and this isn’t coincidence. Unlike Hamilton, who needs to “write like he’s running out time” and say as much as he can in the least amount of time possible, Eliza has time. Songs such as “That Would Be Enough” and “Burn” show her intense passion and her ability to portray that in a caring and thoughtful way. But the song that truly encompasses Eliza’s influence is the final number of the show, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, the love letter to this brilliant feminist.

At the end of the show, Washington sings “You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” And even though Hamilton works endlessly and tirelessly everyday of his life through his writings and his actions to be remembered as something more than just a poor orphan from St. Croix, it is Eliza who keeps his memory alive. She lives for fifty years after Hamilton’s death and decides to put aside her sadness and anger toward her late husband in order to put herself “back in the narrative.” She takes the initiative to deconstruct all of his writing, to make sure Washington is properly memorialized, speaks out against slavery, and opens an orphanage, which she believed to be her greatest accomplishment. The orphanage she founded still exists today – Graham Windham – and was inspired to raise kids like Hamilton who want leave their mark on the world.

Because of Hamilton’s fatal duel with Aaron Burr, he did not have the time needed to carry out all of the expansive dreams he compiled over the years. But because of Eliza, who has the time, and her compassion dedication to do good, Hamilton is remembered through her. And while we all can’t have an Eliza, it is definitely inspiring to see someone with that much passion having their dreams come true even when they are no longer around to see it.